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29 March 2019, 04:27 | Silvia Roy
Pioneering medical drone program takes off in North Carolina
United Parcel Service (UPS) has launched its first regular commercial drone service, transporting medical samples across a hospital system in North Carolina.
The project forms part of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) three-year Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Pilot Program (IPP), which aims to learn how new technology can be safely and usefully integrated into day-to-day activities through practical trials between government-private sector partnerships.
Throughout the WakeMed program, a medical professional will load a secure drone container with a medical sample or specimen - such as a blood sample - at one of WakeMed's nearby facilities.
With the FAA's full oversight, the first flight on Tuesday marked the beginning of numerous planned flights by UPS at the WakeMed Raleigh campus.
The drone delivery service aims to replace WakeMed's reliance on a fleet of courier cars, which now transports most of the hospital's medical samples.
UPS is conducting the service through a joint effort with Matternet, a Menlo Park, California-based start-up which provides autonomous drone technology.
UPS said in a statement. The drones will create an option for on-demand and same-day deliveries. "Healthcare and life science logistics is a priority segment for UPS, and the company is building new relationships and technologies to deliver better patient care with streamlined logistics and supply chain". "And with fewer vehicles on the road, we'll generate less environmental impact". A specially trained Remote Pilot-in-Command will monitor the journey.
UPS said the service will utilize Matternet's M2 "quadcopter" drone, which can carry medical samples of up to 5 pounds as far as 12.5 miles.
"Enhancing the UPS Global Smart Logistics Network to support hospitals and other healthcare organizations remains a key element of the company's transformation strategy".
Companies ranging from Domino's to Amazon have made highly publicized pushes into drone delivery.
This collaboration is the latest UPS programme to utilise drone flights in support of healthcare logistics.
Matternet CEO Andreas Raptopoulos added, "Together with UPS, we aim to shift the status quo for on-demand logistics for healthcare systems in the USA through drone delivery networks". Our technology allows hospital systems to transport medical items at an unprecedented level of speed and predictability, resulting in improved patient care and operational savings. In 2016, UPS Foundation partnered with Gavi, a health organization, and Zipline, a drone company, to deliver blood samples to remote areas in Rwanda. The state agency has been active in deploying drones to expand healthcare access to North Carolina residents.
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